University Business - September 2012 - (Page 88)

Education Innovators A ConversAtion With By Tim Goral Anant Agarwal, President of the edX Project I n May, MIT and Harvard announced a $60 million joint venture, called edX, to develop an open-source platform to deliver online courses. The descendant of MIT’s OpenCourseWare project that made the institution’s course materials freely available, edX offers significant improvements. For one thing, unlike OCW, edX will host full MITx and Harvardx faculty-led courses, with certificates of mastery at completion. In July, edX announced the addition of UC Berkeley to the project, and the formation of the X-University Consortium. We spoke to MIT’s Anant Agarwal, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and president of the edX project, about what this technology could mean for the future of education. Q: With the UC Berkeley partnership, you now have three institutions actively participating in the edX project, with many more interested in joining. What will be the key to a successful partnership? Agarwal: We are looking at a number of criteria as we expand. First is a commitment to quality. We want our courses to reflect the same level of rigor as on our campuses. They will be taught by the same professors, with the same level of quality and care. We also want our partners to strive to improve education in general with a commitment to campus education. Our partners should be thinking about the learning that takes place on our respective campuses. In an ideal world, we would like to bring on everybody, but we are still a small staff and we clearly have to grow with care in a controlled manner. Initially, we are looking to increase diversity in a number of dimensions. For example, we want diversity in courses and content that we offer, participation from both public and private institutions, large and small, within the U.S. and around the world. These are all criteria that we will be looking at. Q: What makes edX and the X-University Consortium different from Coursera and other MOOCs (massive open online courses)? Agarwal: First, I think it’s a great thing that there are a number of organizations looking at offering free online courses to the world. EdX is looking to open-source its platform so it can be improved organically by the community around the world. EdX is also committed to blending learning models to improve on-campus learning. And finally, edX is dedicated to research. That’s a large part of what we are looking at: How do we improve education Today, degrees are “stovepiped”— you have a degree in mechanical engineering or you have a degree in electrical engineering—but the time is coming where we’re going to have a lot more interdisciplinary talent needed. and use the data that we gather to improve the overall learning experience? Q: You’ve noted that edX will offer “certificates of mastery” at the completion of a course. Considering the changing economy and changing education landscape, do you see a day when certificates (or something other than a traditional diploma) become the norm? Agarwal: I think companies today are already moving in the direction of looking at competence. When they interview someone for a job, they are looking at a variety of qualifications. We often see it in software and technology, oftentimes people don’t necessarily look at what degree they have or from what school they graduated. 88 | September 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - September 2012

University Business - September 2012
Editor’s Note
College Index
Ad Index
Behind the News
Independent Outlook
Financial Aid
Virtual Viewbooks: Ready? Or Not?
Technology Changes Everything
Connecting Learners, On Campus and Off
The Changing Face of the CIO
Efficiency Greats
The Administrator's Bookshelf
Oceans of Data
Education Innovators
Internet Technology
End Note

University Business - September 2012